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cargo bikes, nae fatbikes

It's cold here. Normally that means that the bike shop around the corner will have switched over to its back-up cross-country ski business (never mind that there's no snow yet), but this year one segment of the bike-sales business seems to be holding up into the winter: the fatbike. After maneuvering around the floor model positioned right in front of the counter during a recent stop at the shop, I asked how sales were and heard that plenty of folks were interested. Never mind that the last couple days of snow squalls and below-zero windchill the only other bikes—and even tracks—that I saw were narrow-tired commuters and cheap mountain bikes.

I'm not opposed to fatbikes; they certainly have their place, if you're riding the Iditarod Trail Invitational or bikerafting Alaska's lost coast. Only I'm not sure how much we need them around here, when we barely ever get enough snow to snow-shoe on. And even then, they're only for recreational cycling—which I suppose is fine so far as it goes (though I'm clearly not much of a recreational cyclist myself). But when I think of how I'd like cycling to be perceived, my vision isn't mainly of big knobby wheels bashing over extreme terrain—nor yet of carbon-fiber frames and skinny tires doing big loops of the countryside. Those things have their place, but they should be sideshows to the regular business of people getting places by bicycle.

As it is, recreational cycling minimizes cycling generally. When you drive to the parking lot at the end of the bike path, you're casting a vote of no-confidence in the bicycle as a means of transportation for people who know and observe you; and you're not supporting the riders who are out in the street and would appreciate some company. When the average driver sees more bikes being carried on racks than actually being ridden, he comes to see that as normal—and then gives me grief for being on the road.

Cargo bikes, now, are totally serious. Nothing fun about them! When you get a bike you can fit your whole family into you're making a powerful statement that bicycles are for getting to the library, or the playground, or even the supermarket. And when we're out on the big blue bike people totally take notice and ask questions and even, sometimes, get jealous. I'm sure they'd ask questions about a fatbike, too, but I like the answers a lot better for the cargo bike. So maybe this spring we can see some of them in the local shop?


Totally agree. Here in Cape Town there's a really massive recreational cycling scene, but very few people see bikes as a viable means of transportation. It's a pretty common middle/upper class phenomenon to have a big bike rack on your car, so that you can drive for an hour then ride in the beautiful mountains or along the beach.

Our experience has been that cargo biking is certainly recreational as well as work, and what I like about it is that it blurs some of these boundaries that are so common in modern life (exercise vs. transport, work vs. fun.). I can't speak for riding through snow, though!!

Yes, I totally agree about "blurring boundaries"! I think that sometimes we have the dichotomy that something is "work" if it's hard or makes us money, and it's "fun" if it's easy or costs money. Riding a cargo bike full of kids is certainly hard at times, compared to taking the car, but contrary to my jokey reference above it really is a lot of fun too. Even in snow! (though we haven't had it out very much so far this winter... mostly we've been walking).

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